CHRISTOPHER, Ill. _ It took 30 minutes of persistent questioning before a reluctant Linda Burkitt would finally say what she saw in the rectory at St. Andrew Catholic Church.
Until several months ago, the nine-room rectory was the home of the Rev. Steven Poole, 42, who was charged with felony shoplifting in January at a Wal-Mart in West City, in southern Illinois, after police said he tried to steal a $3.22 container of butter and a $60 sofa cover after he switched the bar code tag on a $144.88 foam mattress to read $30.88. Poole was charged with felony stealing in 2000 when he walked out of a trendy Ladue, Mo., antiques shop with a 5-foot-long 19th century English tavern sign valued at $900.
"Shackles," said the 72-year-old Burkitt, who's been involved in Catholic Church matters in her hometown all her life.
"Shackles, hanging from the ceiling, and a tombstone with somebody's name on it. ... But that wasn't the real problem," she said, shaking her head.
"There was just stuff everywhere. It's a shambles. You couldn't put your hand on a wall because there were things nailed up everywhere, every inch. The walls in every room have to be replaced. There's holes everywhere. On the walls. The floor. Just stuff. Movie posters. Thousands of things. You couldn't live in there. ... A priest who comes over to help us out wouldn't stay there overnight."
Poole, who previously served at St. Mary's in Belleville and at St. Augustine's in Breese, Ill., east of St. Louis, could not be reached for comment.
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